Over 70km of electric range, great fuel economy and game-changing connectivity come together in Volvo’s smartest midsize SUV.
For almost 100 years Volvo has been building petrol-powered cars, but that’s soon going to come to an end with the brand’s promise to go electric-only by 2030.
This switch to exclusive battery power isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight, as the Swedish brand has been working towards it for over a decade now.
First, diesel engines were eliminated from Volvo’s Australian range in 2021, and the brand is quickly electrifying and hybridising its local lineup.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have been a significant part of Volvo’s transition, serving as a good middle ground for those not willing to completely commit to EV power.
In Australia, both the XC90 and XC60 are offered in Recharge PHEV form, but we’ll be looking at the smaller SUV here – the $97,990 plug-in XC60 that that directly competes with the BMW X3 xDrive30e ($104,990) and Lexus NX450h+ ($88,323).
The XC60 Recharge PHEV sits on top of the XC60 range locally, and starts at around $110,000 on the road. This represents around a $23,000 jump from the entry-level petrol-powered XC60, so does the plug-in make sense?
Under the bonnet sits a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that makes 233kW and 400Nm. Unlike the larger XC90 Recharge PHEV, Volvo has dropped the supercharger in the XC60 Recharge PHEV for 2022. The engine’s power is sent exclusively to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
To round out the all-wheel drive system in the XC60 PHEV, the SUV gets an electric motor sitting on the rear axle that’s good for 107kW/309Nm. All up, this XC60 is capable of 340kW and 709Nm, which will rocket it to 100km/h in just 4.8-seconds.
During testing, we couldn’t quite recreate Volvo’s acceleration claim of 4.8-seconds, but the XC60 consistently achieved 4.9s.
Power delivery is an interesting topic to cover with this XC60 Recharge, because of the nature of its plug-in hybrid powertrain. With a charged battery, drivers will find themselves in rear-wheel drive mode, using exclusively electric power, only leaning on the petrol engine when heavily accelerating.
Unlike a lot of modern EVs, the XC60 hybrid’s relatively small electric motor won’t rocket the SUV off the line with pace, but instead it offers gradual and comfortable acceleration.
Upon heavy acceleration, the engine sparks into life, and the electric motor is used as more of a crutch to stop the front wheels from slipping. This is where the disconnect in power delivery between the front and rear wheels is most obvious, but is only evident in slippery conditions.
As standard, the XC60 Recharge PHEV rides on air suspension that will adjust its ride height based on the driving mode. Though it offers a composed ride, I found this system to be a little less supple than the same system found on the bigger, plusher XC90 Recharge PHEV.
I’d argue that this more direct ride comes at the benefit of a more dynamic drive. Tipping the scales at just over 2.1-tonnes, the XC60 is a hefty midsized SUV, so you wouldn’t expect it to be the most athletic drive. The dynamic chassis control system does an impressive job of mitigating body roll and allowing the SUV to hold its composure during hard cornering.
Steering in the XC60 is decent, but the tiller doesn’t feel overly connected to the road.
Drivers are able to adjust the firmness of the steering within the infotainment system, which does wonders to imitate the feeling of road connection. I found this to be particularly helpful when using the ‘Sport’ driving mode, but wanted to keep the steering light.
As standard, the XC60 Recharge comes on a set of 21-inch alloy wheels that are wrapped in low-profile Pirelli P-Zero rubber.
On one hand, grip is something that the XC60 has plenty of, with understeer almost non-existent through the harshest turns. But as usual, this comes at the expense of ride quality, as I can assume a more sidewall would help with a better ride.
On the safety front, Volvo’s full range of advanced safety systems come as standard on the XC60. This includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and automatic emergency braking.
A parking assistance system is also standard, but the top-down camera system is top-grade, so I’d be surprised if drivers would need to rely on it.
As a whole, the interior of the XC60 Recharge PHEV is fantastically simple, with an impressive amount of tech squeezed in.
At the XC60 Recharge’s six-figure price point, you’d expect the cabin to have a luxurious feel to it, but I’d say that it exceeds expectations.
There’s no shortage of soft touch materials across the interior, and these soft surfaces are contrasted by stunning aluminium panelling. I was surprised by the lack of space in the centre console bin, but I can imagine that this is down to the battery packaging, as they sit through the spine of the vehicle.
I’m a big fan of the multifunction steering wheel, as it only has a handful of old fashioned buttons to use. Though a little learning is required for drivers to get their head around what the symbols mean, I love how simple it is.
The same goes for the infotainment controls above the centre console. The big volume knob with a play/pause button is something that’s universally accepted, so there’s no confusion there.
Despite the simplistic aesthetic of the XC60’s cabin, drivers have no shortage of advanced tech at their fingertips. Behind the steering wheel sits a 12.3-inch digital cluster, and a head-up display is also offered as standard across the majority of the range.
Taking pride of place in the centre of the dash is a 9.0-inch portrait-mounted display, and it’s one of the best in the business. By size standards, it’s not as impressive as something like the screen in the new Ford Ranger, but the Android-powered Google operating system is the real highlight.
In standard form, this screen offers Apple CarPlay with a wired connection, but no Android Auto. This is because once drivers sign in with their Google credentials, the screen runs Google’s Android Automotive OS – the car itself is like a giant Android phone, with access to downloadable apps via the Google store.
It’s also worth talking about the fantastic Bowers and Wilkins sound system that comes standard on the Recharge PHEV. Across the rest of the XC60 range, this is a $4300 option, and is more than worth it.
Not only is the premium stereo impressive just to listen to, but it also features a serious level of adjustability for drivers that want to tailor a sound to their liking.
Considering that it’s a Google system, it should also come as little surprise to hear that the voice recognition system is one of the best. From song requests to navigation commands, and everything in between, the assistant will be there to answer. It even answered a question I had (as a recent immigrant from New Zealand) regarding the questionably named ‘Bin Chickens’ that I’ve encountered.
On the comfort front, the Volvo XC60 is nothing short of spectacular. Though the seats feature a pretty serious amount of bolstering, they are some of the most comfortable of their type. The back seats are less bolstered, but also offer the same impressive level of comfort.
Interior space is one thing that I was surprised by in the XC60, as it wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. Having recently driven the larger XC90, I assumed that the interior would have a similar amount of space, but without the third row of seating, but the XC60 is smaller across the cabin as a whole.
Front row leg and headroom is more than adequate, but the same cannot be said for the second row. With the driver’s seat in a comfortable position, taller passengers will find a lack of legroom back here, and head room isn’t much better on this front. The biggest hindrance when it comes to passenger space comes in the form of the raised transmission tunnel, which negates almost all legroom in the middle seat.
Those that get the misfortune of sitting here will find themselves straddling the PHEV batteries in a rather uncomfortable fashion.
In terms of boot space, the XC60 Recharge PHEV offers 468 litres of space, which is slightly down from the 505 litres offered in a regular XC60.
As with most PHEVs, working out the running costs of the XC60 Recharge is a tricky one, because there are a few factors at play.
Volvo claims a combined fuel economy of 1.6L/100km, but this doesn’t entirely mirror a real-world scenario as it assumes that drivers will always have a charged battery before departing.
With a charged battery, we managed to better the figure with 1.5L/100km, but as soon as the battery lost charge, that number increased at a rapid rate. 4.3L/100km was the figure that we recorded during a longer drive, which is still very impressive for an SUV of this size.
On the battery front, Volvo claims that the XC60 Recharge will drive up to 77km on a single charge.
During testing, we managed to get just over 70km of pure electric range, which is close enough to the claim, and more than enough for most commutes.
As the XC60 Recharge can’t fast charge, using a home charger is the best option, in which it will take around seven hours to fill the 18.8kWh battery.
When it comes to keeping the SUV on the road, Volvo has two service plans to choose from.
Three years or 45,000km costs $1750, and five years or 75,000km will set you back $3000.
Service intervals are 15,000km, so you’d be looking at spending around $600 each service over a five-year period. Volvo also offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty across its range.
As a whole, the Volvo XC60 Recharge PHEV feels like one of the most well-rounded SUVs in the luxury segment.
This Volvo’s gentle approach to high-tech electric motoring means that owners can just plug in at home each night, and not have to worry about the complexities of charging on the public network.
The same goes for the interior, where it gets a serious amount of impressive technology, all hidden behind a very simple dash.
I was surprised by the lack of interior space throughout the second row of the XC60, so those with baby seats or large children might want to test this out for themselves.
At almost $110,000 on the road, there’s no denying the luxurious nature of this SUV, but finding another electrified SUV with as much standard kit in this price range is no easy task.
A plug-in hybrid is a niche solution, but for city-dwellers who want to cut local emissions without losing the ability to head bush the X3 xDrive30e is a compelling choice
Variant tested RECHARGE ULTIMATE T8 PHEV
Key specs (as tested)
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Volvo to introduce RWD, bigger battery for C40 Recharge, XC40 Recharge, late 2023 Australian launch likely
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